SHIFNAL CHIROPRACTIC CLINIC

Shifnal Chiropractic Clinic

01952 460 947

Lumps and Bumps

22/06/2015

Something I’ve been asked about a few times recently have been those strange lumpy-bumpy bits that develop in muscles, particularly around the top of the pelvis.  They are often first noticed by either someone when they start suffering from back pain or their partner, and are therefore associated with being the cause of the problem.  They feel almost like marbles under the skin, and can vary in size from tiny to pea-sized to...well, bigger!  But what are they? How do they form? And most importantly in many people’s eyes – do they matter?!

First, let me say: they are normal.  Lots of people have them, so in that sense they are nothing to worry about.  If they are fairly new, then they are most likely to be small bits of cartilage that have formed within the muscles as a response to the muscle having a problem.  If they have been there for a long time, they may have calcified and become like bone.

Muscles have cells in them called fibroblasts – if you have ever heard of stem cells, with their ability to make all sorts of tissue and the implications for medical research and future treatments, then these little guys are similar to stem cells.  They are capable of forming muscle, cartilage or bone and the environment they find themselves in dictates which they produce.  So, in a nice healthy, flexible and relaxed muscle environment they produce muscle.  If they’re placed into a cartilage-environment, they start chucking out cartilage, and if they’re in a boney area...you get the picture.

So that’s when everything’s working as it’s supposed to.  But what happens when you have a problem in a muscle, such as can develop during back pain or shoulder problems (or just about any other area!).  Well, quite often the muscle that has been damaged has an inflammatory response, meaning fluid collects in the muscle and the pressure in the area rises.  You feel this as pain and stiffness, and if the muscle is near the skin it can actually look red, swollen and hot to touch.  This increase in pressure totally confuses those poor fibroblasts – suddenly their nice calm muscle environment which has been telling them to create more muscle has started to squeeze them, and there is much more fluid around than there is supposed to be.  Which makes it all feel rather cartilage-like to the fibroblasts.  The obedient, if somewhat bemused, cells therefore do as they are told, and produce the substance that fits their new environment – cartilage.  And hey, presto!  We have a small lump of cartilage forming within your muscle.

Whether or not these lumps matter depends heavily where they form – in your lower back, they tend not to be too much of an issue because they just sit in a big, muscley area and are ignored by the rest of the body.  But if they form in your shoulder, where the muscles are threaded through various narrow spaces and joints, the introduction of a suddenly solid area can cause a problem with moving the joint around.  Of course, they are also important indicators of a problem: if the muscle is and always has been healthy, it shouldn’t have any lumps and bumps.  But if it currently has, or has ever had, an untreated problem then these lumps may be present.

Do we need to do anything about them? As a general rule, no.  If they are small and relatively newly formed, it may be possible to break them down and the fibroblasts will go back to making muscle cells again, but if they have been there for a while this may not be possible – particularly if they have started to calcify.  As I say, if they are not causing any issue with blocking joint movement, they are totally harmless and can be ignored anyway – they won’t cause problems in the future, and as long as the original muscle problem that caused them to form is sorted, you should be good to go!

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